Update on Colorado Hit-and-Run Case: DA Tries To Explain Plea Bargain Decision
The story of how Martin Erzinger, Rich Vail Fund Manager Hits Cyclist And Runs, Gets Off Because Charges Might "Jeopardize His Job" has certainly gone viral, now covered by Huffpo, the New York Times, and Reuters' Felix Salmon. Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland notes "Now, instead of dealing with the felony charge privately with his clients, Erzinger will become a national villain. I wonder how all this attention is impacting his business?
In fact, the noise has become so loud that District Attorney Mark Hurlbert has been forced to explain his position.Hurlbert tells the Vail Daily that his "inartful comments" did not convey his reasons for charging Erzinger with misdemeanours instead of a felony.
Despite what is implied in the Vail Daily, Dr. Milo never asked me to plea Mr. Erzinger to a felony. Dr. Milo asked that I plead Mr. Erzinger to a felony deferred judgment and sentence.
What this means is that Mr. Erzinger would plead to a felony leaving the scene of an accident, and the judgment would be set aside.
In either two or four years, as long as Mr. Erzinger met certain conditions, the case would drop off his record and he would be allowed to seal this case. Since there was no alcohol or drugs involved, the only conditions I could legally ask for were that he pay restitution and stay out of trouble.
Given that he had a clean history, Mr. Erzinger would essentially have been able to write a check, and the case would then be dismissed. On top of that, while Dr. Milo was still probably recovering from his injuries, Mr. Erzinger would be able to say that he had no criminal history and even deny that anything had happened. That is not something I could stomach.
I therefore offered that Mr. Erzinger plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and careless driving causing serious bodily injury.
This means that for the rest of his life, Mr. Erzinger will have on his record that he carelessly drove, caused another human being serious bodily injury and left the scene. He will lose his driver's license, face potential jail time as determined by the judge and still have to pay restitution, which as I said in the Vail Daily is important to us but not an overriding objective in the plea.
Obviously there is a benefit to Mr. Erzinger on taking the misdemeanors -- he keeps his job.
Hurlbert appears to be saying that he would rather have Erzinger have a record forever instead of a clean record after a couple of years. He also says that he can't change it. "I made the plea offer months ago, and the defense has accepted. This means that even if I wanted to change the plea offer, I could not."
But the Judge can still reject it.